WASHINGTON — The sign that hangs above the field-access tunnel outside D.C. United's locker room says it all:
"Take Back RFK"
After a two-year stretch that has seen D.C. record just seven league wins in front of their home fans, a determined United side returns to the venerable stadium following a two-week road trip.
Friday's match against FC Dallas (7:30 pm ET, NBC Sports Network, LIVE CHAT on MLSsoccer.com) will be D.C.'s first at home since a heartbreaking defeat to Kansas City on opening night; a memory United's players are keen to replace.
"It's important for us to defend RFK and show our home fans what we are about," Robbie Russell said from inside the historic facility on Wednesday. "The fans here are great and whenever they are here cheering us on it makes all the difference for us because it gets us in that home [frame of mind]."
Inside United's locker room, there's an acute awareness that it was a lack of home form that undid the club's playoff chances a year ago. In the thick of the postseason chase, D.C. won just once during its final five matches at RFK and missed out on a shot at MLS Cup as a result.
Though the page has long been turned on the end 2011, the Black-and-Red's captain acknowledges that there were lessons to be learned from that difficult stretch.
"I think last year, I saw a little bit of tentativeness when we were playing at home," Dwayne De Rosario admitted on Thursday. "I don't know if it was because guys were a little timid with the passion of the fans, but we as players need to embrace it and feed off that energy because they are our 12th man."
Added midfielder Stephen King: "When we talked team goals for this year, the first thing is we need to win at home. Our fans deserve it. They've been there since the beginning. Our fans set the bar when the league first began and they deserve for us to go out there and perform well at home."